Showing posts with label Jo Franklin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jo Franklin. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? by Jo Franklin

As every author knows, the question that gets asked most frequently at any event is

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

In On Writing by Stephen King (the most important book on the subject of writing, by the way) he describes how he formed a band with a few writing mates. They liked to hang out together to discuss their writing with fellow writers.

'We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don't know.'

And that is the truth. Authors don't really know where we get our ideas from. Ideas breed, develop, evolve in our heads. No single character is our mother or our selves. 
Thoughts, memories, fantasies spring up and stick together to form something in our heads which we recognise as an idea. That idea transforms into a story and if the mood takes us, we write it down.

So here are a few images that have led to an idea that in turn has morphed into one of my books. If you have read any of my books, I wonder if you can recognise which image generated a spark that I turned into words. 

If you want to check out my books, head over to my website

Monday, 25 June 2018

Online Dating vs Submitting to Agents by Jo Franklin

The last twelve months have meant a massive change in my personal life. It's been quite a year but ultimately a fantastic one. Now that I am single again, I decided to have a go at online dating with varying results and I now have enough material to write a three series sitcom, devise a stand up routine and to keep my girlfriends entertained for a year. But the one thing that stands out for me is that looking for love online is very much like looking for a literary agent (or a publisher for those who submit directly).

The Pitch

For a start you spend ages on your pitch or dating profile not really knowing who you are talking to. I met a few agents at networking events but most of my submissions were to total strangers. Some of the strangers in the world of dating are stranger than others, but like the literary agents out there, many of them are just looking for something special.

The Wait

Having sent off a submission to an agent there is an agonizing wait for a response. It's not unusual to hear nothing for three months and often the torture can go on for longer.
It's the same with dating. My early forays resulted in no interest. No one liked me! I thought I was going to have to resign myself to being permanently single which exactly echoed my feelings as an unpublished author. Total torture.

Financial Scammers

There are a lot of crooks lurking in the anonymous world of internet dating. I consider myself pretty savvy but I'm sure that I crossed paths with a few. It's pretty abhorrent that thieves target potentially vulnerable people looking for romance but even worse for me was the realisation that the sites themselves are not all that they seem. There are hundreds of fake profiles and automatically generated 'likes' so finding a genuine prospect among the artificial ones is tricky and time consuming.
Of course there are a few dodgy agents and publishers too. Vanity publishers masquerading as genuine. Agents purporting to be professional but behaving like amateurs. Thankfully I have avoided these but I know people who have been caught out.


The moment when an agent asks to see your full manuscript is a fantastic one. It's also terrifying. What do they think? Will they like it? Is this going to be the start of my dream coming true?
A mutual like on a dating website is just the same, although maybe less extreme. Eek! Someone likes me. Do I like them?


A mutual like on a dating site can cause your heart to skip a beat, but next thing you know you are unliked or blocked. Yikes! Am I really that awful? It really shook me the first time it happened but then I realised that some people use blocking as a way of letting someone know they had changed their mind.
Rejection from agents can be similarly cutting. 'Sorry not interested' is hurtful in any forum.
But we all need to remember that REJECTION IS NOT FEEDBACK. I need to print that off and stick it on my computer.


It took me a while to find my agent Anne Clark but now we've been together for over five years. I've had eight books published in seven countries. I'm a published author!

And my success with online dating? Let's just say it's a work in progress.

Jo Franklin

Friday, 25 May 2018

Essential Items To Take On Writer's Retreat by Jo Franklin

I'm going on a three night's writer's retreat tomorrow. I try and get away to focus on my writing at least once a year. It's good to leave the laundry and the vacuum cleaner behind, my children, my impending tax return and the mystery that is Bromley council's recycling collection rota.
As I am busy packing, I thought I would share with you what I am taking with me.

1. My dog, Mickey

Now the truth of the matter is, I should really leave Mickey behind as he is a terrible distraction, especially if he goes off on one of his adventures while we are out on a walk. But finding dog care is difficult and anyway he forces me to leave my screen which has to be a good thing. Right?

2. A Writing Companion

Now I could go on retreat on my own. I spend many days on my own at home which is great, but I find going away on my own a bit lonely. Actually, very lonely and I can get very depressed. Although I aspire to be an eccentric recluse, the reality is that I am a social person and enjoy the interaction with my fellow dog walkers, the delivery people who need me to 'Sign Here' and my fellow allotment holders. I prefer to go on writer's retreat with someone else. This time my lovely companion is Emma Styles. We have been on writer's retreat many times, we are easy companions and will have a lovely time.

3. Cake

A writer's retreat isn't a retreat unless cake is involved. Actually a writer needs cake even when they stay at home. Unfortunately I now have tedious dietary problems, so I generally make my own or suffer cake withdrawal.
For this break I have made a lemon drizzle polenta and almond cake. (The shoes will be coming with me too)

4. Cocktails

I don't drink very much, however I am very fond of cocktails. There is no way I'd shake up a cocktail to drink on my own, so I save my cocktail drinking for social occasions. Most of my social life revolves around authors who are very active on social media, so there are probably more photos of me out there with an exotic cocktail in my hand, than there are of me drinking my usual beverage - water. Not quite sure how, but cocktails have become a feature of this writer's retreat.
Emma has recently started drinking Caipirinha, so she is bringing the appropriate ingredients with her. Not to be outdone, I am bringing the ingredients for my current favourite cocktail - pornstar martini.

Well I think that is everything, other than clothes etc. Have I forgotten anything?

Oh yes! My writing!

That's easy. I'm taking my latest wip (Work In Progress). I've written a terrible first draft, often known as the vomit draft, and half the proposal to go with it. So I will be whipping that into shape on my new Macbook Pro.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

How Do You Count The Words? by Jo Franklin

Authors are obsessed with word count. Firstly they obsess over how many words they should aim for when writing a book. Then they obsess over how many words they have written to reach that target.

Luckily these days word processing packages count our words for us so we can easily keep track of the length of our current document.

Word count for my current document is 8,443, thanks for asking. That feels pretty good as I have been in a fallow writing period recently. But counting how many words I have written today is a little harder. I used to keep a spreadsheet of each days word count. (Yep, this author likes spreadsheets!) but I don't bother with that any more. Any way counting the words I have written today isn't as simple as glancing down at the screen. I have to highlight the text first. What a chore!

These days I calculate my productivity a different way. When I am actively writing, I write a chapter a day. That's about 1,200 -1,500 words, or 5-6 pages double line spaced for my middle grade fiction. I've got a terrible psychological block about writing more than that in a single day. In fact if I push myself and write another chapter I tend to dry up for a week afterwards so I don't bother trying any more. Just like Stephen King, there are days when my chapter is written before 11am. I feel liberated and free to spend the rest of the day in whatever way I chose. Other days getting the words down on paper is excruciatingly hard work. Like yesterday, the words were wooden and had to be revised again and again to make them intelligible. Imagine my horror when I came to print out that chapter and there were only three pages. I can only have written about 800 words! That chapter is going to need some serious work come the second draft.

Another way I count my productivity is to assess my waste paper output. As I write long hand with a pen in a spiral bound A5 notebook, I have pages covered in my scrawl to get rid of at the end of every day. I don't edit as I write but I have many aborted attempts at completing a decent sentence and I write in a very scruffy, for-my-eyes-only handwriting so I produce a lot of waste paper.

Top tip : although authors obsess about their word count, it is probably best not to ask them about it as sometimes the answer is zero. And that is a very big number.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Why Authors Enjoy Visiting Schools by Jo Franklin

The weeks surrounding World Book Day are very busy for children's authors. Many will be fully booked with school visits for three weeks, followed by three weeks recovery time as they catch every cold, flu and vomiting virus that have been incubating and mutating in schools all year.

Schools are keen to get an author in on the actual day - 1st March in 2018 - in the hope of ...

Hmm ... what do schools want from an author visit? And why do authors want to visit schools?
Jo Franklin

I've never been a teacher or a school librarian so I can't really answer for what schools want. I hope they want some or all of the following things :

  • Their children to be inspired to read a book that they may have never heard of before because they are able to put a face to the author's name on the cover
  • To meet a role model of someone who has carved out a career in the arts. Many children's authors are female, but by no means all. A woman or man with a successful career in the arts - I hope that is an important message for both girls and boys to hear.
  • The life blood of the author - books, writing and reading - is so strong that it spreads through the school like a wild fire.
  • That children realise that reading and writing are important, special, fantastic and more fun than You Tube videos.
These are certainly the things I want to leave behind when I visit a school. I love meeting my readers and talking about books.

Children's authors spend a lot of time in their writing caves with their own thoughts and fountain pens. The rest of the time they seek out other writers to talk about how their writing is going (or not going) - word count, frustrations with publishers, crazy requests from schools!
Talking to children about books is particularly special though. We write because we love it and we want readers to love our writing. Children's authors have a passion for words, sentences and stories. Most of us don't have much time for grammar with long meaningful names (fronted adverbial, no thanks). We love libraries and our homes are stuffed with books. We live, breathe and eat words every day.

Authors Love Books!

So schools, if you invite an author into your school (whether around World Book Day or another time) allow them to inspire your children. 
  • Make a display on your noticeboard. 
  • Tell the children they are meeting a celebrity.  
  • Buy the author's books for your library. 
  • Beg the author to hang around at the end of the day to sign books the children have bought. 
  • Please don't treat us a nuisance, a supply teacher or a money grabbing drain on your scarce financial resources. We don't visit schools to make money. We need to be paid because we are skilled professionals. We visit schools to share the love of words. 
This year on World Book Day 1st March 2018 I am visiting Harris Primary Merton to talk about Help I'm a Genius and what it is like to be a full time writer. I can't wait!

Jo Franklin

Thursday, 25 January 2018

What is it with Authors and Stationery? by Jo Franklin

It is a truth universally acknowledged that authors are totally obsessed with stationery. I mean seriously, hopelessly, dangerously obsessed.

Notebooks and pens are the tools or our trade. Even with computers, tablets and phones, authors often need a piece of paper to scribble something down on. An overheard conversation on the bus. A curious conjunction of a piece of litter and a park railing. A cute dog watching the world go by from a seventh floor window. Writers are curious and observant and need to capture those observations before they vanish into the ether. So every author carries a notebook around with them.

My favourite handbag notebooks are like a passport and come from Muji. They are slim and easily slip into my bag. I use them to make notes if I go to a seminar, scribble plot points that come to me as the tram hurtles round the bend towards the next station or even to write the latest list of items I desperately need from Rymans.

I also try and keep a notebook for each project I'm working on. These are the well recognised hardback notebooks made by Moleskine or Leuchtturm. I use the A5 size as they are big enough to fit lots of words on the page but not to big to be intimidating. An empty page can be very frightening for an author. The larger the page, the more words are required to fill it, so in most cases I stick with A5 maximum.

My project notebooks often don't get filled to the end. I begin religiously making notes in the way that I think proper authors do - yep, seven books in, I still have to convince myself daily that I am as much a proper author as Stephen King or Michael Morpurgo. Notes on character, notes on setting, research notes. To be honest, I rarely go back to them. But like writing down revision notes, the act of putting pen to paper ensures that the information seeps into my brain in some form of other, ready to reappear in a different form at a later point.  As my project progresses from being a bundle of ideas to an actual piece of work, I forget about my smart hardback book and move onto something cheaper.

I use a disposable notebook to write my first drafts. I always write long hand in the first instance and once I get going, my thoughts tumble out of the tip of my pain at great, illegible speed. I cross things out, leave sentences hanging unfinished and write the same thought six different ways at times. I find a spiral bound A5 notebook is best for this phase of writing. For some reason, I like the continental grid style so I tend to buy these notebooks from Lidl. The paper is good quality but the books inexpensive (99p) and I get through about twenty a year. As soon as I have typed up today's chapter, I rip the pages out so that I have a blank page ready to write on the next day.

Larger format notebooks feature in my life too. I use them when I want to make BIG plans. I use BIG writing and draw scruffy pictures that could be buildings or people or arrows or anything or maybe nothing. I think visually even though I have no skill as an artist. Expressing myself in big writing seems to unleash my creativity when an idea is still tiny and new.

My passion for stationery, led me to set up a website with Anita Loughrey where we explore the relationship between writers and their stationery. Everyone has their own quirks and preferences and the articles make fascinating reading.

Do you have a notebook obsession? Which brand? Format?  Or is colour your thing?

My name is Jo Franklin and I am a stationery addict.